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Name: Forest Schweitzer
Major: Environmental Studies
Expected Graduation Date: May 2019

Why did you want to go to the the Highlands?
I was interested in immersing myself in an environment that challenged me both intellectually and physically, and which I thought would further my understanding of what is possible with my major.

What specifically are you doing in the Highlands?
I am pursuing a rigorous 6-course schedule that consists of conservation, biodiversity, culture and field work (both in a group by way of a Capstone and individually for an internship) curricula. My days are mostly 9-5 and involve my spending time both in a traditional classroom setting and out in the field, gaining experiential knowledge.

What has been the most impactful experience you’ve had while in the Highlands?
Intellectually I would have to say learning the scientific names of local flora and fauna has been surpassingly gratifying. Knowing what it is you are seeing in your natural world provides real substance to discussions of conservation. Much as with people, once you know a plants name, you are more likely to think of it when making policy decisions. Socially, however, I must say that white water rafting with my Highlands family was both exciting and endearing, tying me to these people as I would not have been otherwise.

What is the biggest lesson you’ve taken away from your experience in the Highlands?
That the natural world exists as a highly diversified community of actors which each plays a key role in the success of the overarching system. This I has know, but Highlands made it real.

Do you have any advice for other students who are considering going to the the Highlands?
Really do some soul-searching. Try and picture yourself away from home, from the internet, from friends and family and (during emergencies and while camping) temporarily from power and clean water. Picture yourself up to your neck in an entirely new place while learning something you had truly never known before. If any of these things ignite in you a sense of belonging, then you’ll know. Once you get here, you’re here, and though that may seem commonsensical it won’t really click until it happens.

Do you have anything else to share that wasn’t covered in the questions above?
Prepare for being unprepared. Pack a sizeable toolbox of understanding and making it work, and don’t sweat it. I’ve learned things here outside of the classroom that I would have never discovered on-campus. That is why it is worth pursuing any field site. For those who are particularly passionate about forest ecology and the mountain landscape, Highlands is for you.

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